3 Essential UX Design Practices You Can Learn from Board Games

UX Design

Modern product designs are about much more than coming up with fun and complex visual solutions. Today’s users are spoiled in their expectations and habits, and you should consider this whenever you design a new digital product. One of the cornerstones of a product or service’s success in the modern market is the experience it provides to its users – its user experience (UX). There’s a lot of psychology involved in this, but designers aren’t always psychologists and don’t necessarily have a full understanding of human behavior. However, this doesn’t mean UX designers can’t apply well-known and effective techniques and concepts when developing their product designs.

Board games are a great example of something captivating and enjoyable. Moreover, there is one thing board games and digital products share – the need to engage the player or user as soon as possible, before they decide it’s boring and look for another, more exciting option. The best websites and apps are known to be intuitive, user-friendly, and overall simple to use – this is also true of board games.

Since board games have been around for longer than digital products, they have developed effective practices to keep people engaged and coming back to play again and again. Some UX design agencies have already noticed this fact and are successfully applying these surprisingly simple techniques to their designs. The idea is simple: if you want to make an excellent user interface that guarantees outstanding user experience, you should take a closer look at board games. Introducing these principles to the UX design process will help you develop designs that capture users and provide them with a fun and engaging experience.

Tip #1. Include a Bigger Version

Some board games come in a single set and don’t extend anywhere beyond it. But, the more complex ones can have multiple versions – some are for beginners, while more advanced editions are meant for weathered players. Risk is a good example – it’s quite a sophisticated and sometimes intimidating board game, and some people are terrified of trying to learn to play it. But, there’s an introductory version of the game with more straightforward rules and a simpler setting. It allows players to start quicker, understand the game’s basic strategies with more ease, and, thus, quickly engage with all the excitement that comes with Risk. Players can move on to the classic version of this game and not be intimidated by its complexity anymore.

While not wholly applicable to websites, it’s a common practice for both web-based and mobile applications – they provide access to beginner versions first with an option of upgrading to advanced packages for the more experienced users. It lets new users take advantage of the basic features and then move on to advanced packaging upon their needs. It is an excellent tactic as it enables companies to launch paid products with free versions and, if the UX design part is right, target audiences start appreciating the app’s functionality and eventually transition to a payment plan.

Tip #2. People Love to Customize

Initially, board games didn’t have many customizable options, but over time players devised modifications. For example, according to the official Monopoly rules, players don’t get $500 when landing on Free Parking. It was a modification introduced by players that wanted to add more fun to the game. Lego, on the other hand, encourages players to make modifications via several additional ways of playing to their board games. Such autonomous variations can refresh a familiar game and add new types of fun to it.

Customization in digital products – especially in mobile, web, and desktop apps – isn’t usually meant to add to the fun or diversity, but rather to adjust an app to a person’s way of using it. Because many users aren’t quite used to customization, providing an option to somewhat modify standard options can become a new dimension of user experience.

Tip #3. Conduct Testing with Users

The only effective way to find out if a board game is simple or complex for players to learn is testing it with players. The same goes for apps and users. In case you didn’t know, large board game manufacturers conduct quite a lot of playtesting of their games to define how the players perceive any issues they might have learning to play the game and if they find it fun. It provides a lot of information regarding not just the game that’s being tested, but also on the things that would and would not work for new games in the future.

Process in UX design agency should involve at least several test runs, starting with paper testing. And while you can undoubtedly spot several things while testing the app within your team, users are still the best litmus test to your project’s usability and experience. Hence why rolling out a beta version when it’s ready to see what potential users think of your team’s UX design solutions is often a great idea. 

Board Games Aren’t New But Are Useful Nonetheless

While the things listed and described in this article aren’t new, taking a different point of view on them from the board game perspective shows how useful and practical they are. They have been tried and tested by a prominent digital products’ predecessor that is still around and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, despite it being the age of digital technologies. Studying how another area makes use of familiar concepts and principles allows UX designers to step back and find inspiration and useful tips from other sources.

Although digital products are not the same thing as board games, the latter still has quite a lot to bring to the table. UX design focuses on providing users with a great experience while they run an app or use a website. Board games are trying to do the same, and they seem to be succeeding. The board game niche is a great teacher for contemporary UX designers looking for guidance and inspiration.

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James Williams
James is our Lead Content Publisher here at Feeds Portal. He has worked with many top websites over the years, including BuzzFeed.

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